No matter how much progress we humans make in preventing disease and keeping ourselves alive longer, nature seems always to be inventing new threats. Ebola has quieted down--for now--but the Zika virus is alive and spreading, as U.S. officials warned us yesterday, hoping to put pressure on Congress to appropriate more money to stop the spread of the disease.
"Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, a deputy director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Schuchat said Aedes aegypti, the mosquito species that primarily transmits the virus, is present in about 30 states, rather than 12 as previously thought. In the U.S. territory Puerto Rico, there may be hundreds of thousands of Zika infections and perhaps hundreds of affected babies, she added.
The World Health Organization has said there is a strong scientific consensus that Zika can cause microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with small heads that can result in developmental problems, as well as Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that can result in paralysis, though proof may take months or years.It is very unfortunate that Congress has somehow decided that partisan politics are more important than public health.
Brazil said last week it has confirmed more than 1,046 cases of microcephaly, and considers most to be related to Zika infections in the mothers.